Red-rumped Swallow brings up the 250!

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Iceland Gull at King’s Lynn – getting the birding week off to a good start

I’ve only been Norfolk Year Listing since we moved over here permanently a couple of years ago. Last year I set the ‘bench-mark’ of 225 and I was hoping, with a bit more effort this year, to do better. With only a couple of weeks left of 2015 I started the week off on 245, with an ambition to reach 250 before Christmas. On Tuesday we did the long trek out to Snittisham RSPB to look for the Pallid Harrier. It’d been seen earlier that morning but had been missing for an hour or so when we got there. Almost immediately, as we climbed the bank, we saw a distant ‘ring-tail’ across the fields. Although it never came close we did get enough on it to clinch the identification. Later that day we went to Titchwell in the hope of some much-needed sea birds. The sea was a long way out and there were very few birds on view but we did find a few Goldeneye, Great-crested Grebe, three Scoter which turned out to be Velvet, several Red-breasted Merganser and, just as we were leaving, two fabulous male Long-tailed Duck, close inshore . It was Wednesday morning and I was leading the NENBC Felbrigg mid-week walk when the news came through of a Grey Phalarope at Cley – a hastily concluded walk and we were off in pursuit. We parked at Walsey Hills and headed down East Bank, only to be greeted by the news that it had been flushed seconds earlier by a Peregrine! I eventually relocated it on Pope’s pool – 248, just two to go. We did go over to Sea Palling to have a look at the now ‘resident’ Cattle Egret – my guess is that it’s the same bird as the one we found a couple of weeks ago at Aylmerton. This morning, whilst waiting for Jane to finish up at the hairdressers, I popped along to Weybourne in the hope of finding Great Northern Diver on the sea. No luck but I did see the mixed finch flock as I drove down Beach Lane. I stopped off on my way back and was delighted to find at least 80 Lesser Redpoll and a Brambling amongst the commoner stuff. More careful scrutiny of the flock produce a couple of Mealy Redpoll, leaving me with just one for my target 250. There’d been a brief sighting yesterday of an unseasonaly late Red-rumped Swallow at Cley, fortunately it reappeared today and we eventually ran it to ground at Blakeney, hawking over the fresh marsh – bingo! I realise that 250 is a relatively modest achievement for possibly the UK’s premier birding county but it’s raised the bar for me and will provide a suitable challenge for years to come. As always, with any bird list, there are a few embarrassing omissions including Turtle Dove, Arctic Tern and Corn Bunting – oh well, there’s always next year.

The ‘resident’ Cattle Egret at Sea Palling – possibly the same bird that was at Aylmerton

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Brambling and Lesser Redpoll in the mixed finch flock at Weybourne

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Mealy Redpoll amongst c 80 Lesser Redpoll

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and Red-rumped Swallow brings up the 250!

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Holkham highlight

It was the NENBC field trip to Holkham today. The morning was spent in the park looking for woodland species – more looking than finding I’m afraid! The afternoon was spent on a slow walk to Washington hide and return. The highlight of the afternoon, apart from a reasonable selection of wildfowl including a couple of White-fronted Geese, was a particularly pale Buzzard. Seen from the hide, the bird was sat in a tree close to the A149 but even at that distance the striking overall pale plumage could clearly be seen. It put me in mind of the bird I saw last April in the Brecks.

 

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A ‘bonus bird, was this Red-necked Grebe at Brancaster harbour seen, late afternoon

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First foot in the Algarve

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Star bird was this juvenile Spanish Imperial Eagle, found by Nigel, flying through a roadside wood!

Courtesy of Phil & Carolyn, in whose house we stayed, and our friends Sue and Nigel, who were the inspiration behind the trip, we’ve just experienced our first birding adventure to Portugal’s Algarve region. We flew from Luton to Faro and spent a few days exploring the various wetlands of the area, as well as venturing a little further afield to the mountains of Monchique and the steppe grassland around Sagres and Castro Verde. We used Dave Gosney’s reliable guide for the main sites, supplemented with a bit of local gen from Phil. We didn’t expect great things in mid-December but we did see around 120 species and got good views of some superb birds including, Iberian Shrike, Great Bustard, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Penduline Tit, Purple Swamphen, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Caspian Tern, Bluethroat, Western Subalpine Warbler, Rock Bunting and more.

The shine was taken off the trip a little when our car was broken into at the Salgados beach car park and some of our possessions stolen. The worst aspects of the incident only becoming apparent the following day when I realised that my camera battery charger was in the stolen bag, along with my spare batteries – resulting in no functioning camera for our last day. But it didn’t matter too much because by the time we’d finished at the Police Station it was lunchtime anyway and our trip to Sagres failed to produce the goods in the form of Little Bustard, so nothing to photograph anyway! Still, we didn’t lose anything that can’t be replaced and everyone was very helpful – gives us a reason to return!

A few photos from our brief trip:

Iberian Shrike were reasonably common in the more arid areas, but rather unapproachable

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Great Bustard took a bit of finding but we did see more than a dozen in a couple of places

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Purple Swamphen aren’t usually difficult to find in the right habitat but we did get particularly good views

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Red Kite in Iberia are always a delight

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Azure-winged Magpie – much easier to see in Portugal than across the border!

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Bluthroat winter along the Algarve coast in small numbers

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A flock of Spoonbill, some wearing bird ‘bling’

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Water Pipit – makes me think I’m back at Cley NWT

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Cetti’s Warbler – another Cley species but easier to see in the Algarve

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Caspian Tern, seen in small numbers along the coast

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Taken moments before we discovered that the car had been trashed – Chiffchaff with ‘bling’

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Finally, my only Western Palearctic ‘tick’ – Black-headed Weaver, a rapidly colonising escape, which breeds in several spots along the coast

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